This week, Jordan Chaffiotte, Ben Guest, and Callum Wiggins tackle WWE Fastlane, airing this Sunday. As the last pay-per-view before WrestleMania, and with several major feuds boiling up, it's sure to be an interesting show. Things seem more uncertain than usual, as Seth Rollin's medical situation is yet to be resolved, Kevin Ownes has to face Goldberg all on his own, and Bayley needs to overcome the Queen of Pay-Per-View. Today we'll take a look at three of the most prominent aspects going into Sunday's show, and next week we'll revisit them based on what actually happened.
Question 1:Festival of Friendship: Great segment or the greatest segment? With Kevin Owens on his own now, how do you see it playing out at Fastlane, does he have what it takes to defeat Goldberg on his own?
CHAFFIOTTE: The greatest segment. In history. Submit that film to the Emmy’s, or at least to the Slammy’s where it will undoubtedly be the Backstab of the Year. There were a lot of aspects that seemed to just have the stars aligning for them, but the number one reason why that segment worked was Kevin Owen’s acting. I’ve always believed he doesn’t get enough credit for his mic work, specifically his use of white space. It’s not just about what Kevin Owens says, it’s about what he doesn’t say. It’s about the look in his eyes as Chris Jericho realizes his name is on the list, and it’s about the uncertain, almost remorseful beats before the big reveal. There’s something more going on here, this isn’t your typical Seth Rollins with the Steel Chair in the Ballroom sort of betrayal. For what it’s worth, I am dying to find out what it is.
Preferably, we’ll find out at Fastlane. Raw has proven to have serious pacing issues, so strike while the iron is hot. We need to know what that conversation with Triple H was all about and if he really is creating a faction all his own with Joe and Kevin. If that’s the case, which would make the most sense, then no, Kevin's not winning clean, but he’s not walking away without the belt. Joe can serve as the group's enforcer, similar to Batista’s role back in evolution, or more recently, Roman’s in the Shield. Especially because he has an uncanny ability to just be wherever Triple H needs him to be at any given moment, he could easily cost Goldberg the title. At the same time I think Owens has a very valid point that the longer a Goldberg match goes the more it falls out of his favor. Wouldn’t it be brilliant for Owens to be close to having it on his own, just to have Joe interfere so that he’s kept under Triple H’s thumb? If he owes Hunter everything he has, he cannot walk away.
WIGGINS:The fact that I’ve rewatched the Festival of Friendship several times since it happened is a testament to its brilliance. As far as quality non-wrestling segments go, this is the best since CM Punk dropped a pipe bomb in 2011. It was exquisite, from the fantastic jokes about the strength of their friendship, the bizarre artwork, the heartfelt confession by Chris Jericho and the diabolical turn of Kevin Owens on his estranged best friend. An instant classic, and the best thing Owens has done since pinning John Cena in his first WWE match.
However, my confidence this will lead to Kevin Owens defeating Goldberg at Fastlane is minimal at best. I think Owens and Jericho utterly deserve to fight for the Universal Championship at WrestleMania, because above all else Goldberg vs Brock Lesnar simply doesn’t need the belt. Can Owens beat Goldberg on his own? No. But that doesn’t mean he won’t beat Goldberg is a certain Beast Incarnate wants to make an appearance.
GUEST:JeriKO has been my favourite love story in WWE, period. I knew they were going to be split up going into WrestleMania, but I did not want it to happen. Despite my bias, the Festival of Friendship was done perfectly and I love that we haven’t seen Chris Jericho since and that Kevin Owens has only briefly mentioned him. I think we are all consigned to the fact that Goldberg is taking the belt, but I want to either see Jericho try to help Owens at Fastlane, or challenge Goldberg on Raw in an attempt to avenge KO. I’m concerned, because I wanted Randy Orton to lie down and let Bray Wyatt beat him at WrestleMania and I also want Chris Jericho to concede his belt to KO at WrestleMania.
I want to see a sad and pathetic Jericho beg and plead KO to be his friend going into Mania, but I think that’s just because I have hope that they really are best friends both in and out of kayfabe, this has been one of my favourite storylines ever and they have been the only people that have consistently made Raw bearable to me since the brand split.
Question 2: On a scale from 1 to Mojo Rawley’s natural state of being, with 1 being couldn’t care less, how hyped are you for Seth vs. Triple H after Monday night’s events? What can they do on Sunday to solidify this WrestleMania match?
CHAFFIOTTE: I would say somewhere around Mojo repeating “WrestleMania. WrestleMania” to himself, very hyped but in a serious kind of way. Because this is seriously good and I really had given up on it. Between the bone-chilling video package, Seth finally giving the promo he should’ve given after coming back the first time, and Triple H’s consistently excellent performances, I am all in. Now, I still find myself pulled into the story of all of this being set into motion when Hunter found out about an affair, but that is a really tricky tightrope to walk. Ideally, they continue to be implicit about it (how exactly did Seth bite the hand that fed him, anyway?) with moments that strung together can tell a complete story. No CCTV footage necessary. Being overt only serves to villainize Stephanie and make Seth into a heel, but giving us just enough for our imaginations to run with makes it more compelling and nuanced.
So at Fastlane, that’s what they need to work with, there’s this dirty little secret that they all know, but no one else, not Mick or even Joe, is aware of it. The time has passed for Joke Rollins Joke, but the rebellious child angle still has a place. Seth should crash Fastlane even though he’s not medically cleared, he should be hanging out in Steph’s office, his feet up on her desk, and make it clear that he’s not going anywhere.They should keep him out of the ring just to ensure there’s no more unfortunate accidents. But if he can put that passion into a backstage promo where he tells Steph “you took away the only thing I had left to lose,” and acknowledges the mutually-assured destruction, we could have all the pieces we need for WrestleMania.
WIGGINS: I probably find myself in the minority where I say that this feud has been a huge wasted opportunity that has been somewhat rescued with Seth Rollins’ invasion of NXT and subsequent injury. Rollins produced an emotional and hard-hitting promo on RAW building up to a WrestleMania battle with Triple H, but it was partially derailed by a disgustingly poor Green Bay crowd chanting CM Punk over the top of it. This feud is far from dead and will likely heat up towards April 2nd, but it could and should have been so much more.
On a scale of 1 to Mojo Rawley then, I find myself sitting precariously in the middle, confident of both performers putting on a stellar match at WrestleMania 33, but a little disappointed at the journey it’s taken so far to get there. So many missed opportunities - the aftermath of Triple H screwing Rollins out of the Universal Championship, Rollins invading WWE headquarters, interfering in the Royal Rumble match, etc. But, Fastlane is a big and potentially final chance to make this rivalry red-hot going into Mania. Could there be some deeply personal issue that drove Triple H to turn his back on his protege? Hopefully, Sunday puts this feud into top gear.
GUEST:This feud definitely died for a bit after Rollins’ first return from injury, but Raw gave me a lot of hope and some fun ideas for how they should go forward. First of all, I like that they are adding more to the feud than just the “master vs apprentice” base that has been building for over 2 years and having Triple H begin to build this reported stable and not including his ‘first prodigy’ (ignoring Orton and Batista) could add to the feud further.
Going forward, I think they should run with the idea of Rollins not being cleared for WrestleMania, assuming that part is kayfabe, and have Rollins challenge Triple H at Fastlane only for Stephanie or Mick Foley tell him he can’t because he’s not cleared and for this to continue and for him to keep antagonising Triple H, until the Triple H, with the backing of Steph and Mick, says something along the lines of “if you keep acting this way, then I am not responsible for what I do to you”. Leading to an unsanctioned match at WrestleMania.
Question 3: What are Sasha Banks’ intentions in protecting Bayley the way she has the past few weeks? Will we see a major development of this story, and what will that be? Plus, how does Nia fit into all of this?
CHAFFIOTTE: The Boss is up to something. The Boss is always up to something, and it’s a vital part of her character that she’s smart and crafty, making up for her small stature. I most enjoy Sasha’s work as a tweener, a face with a devious plan and a heel with a heart. Right now, she needs to be the first. Sure, she loves Bayley, but she also loves winning. Bayely and Sasha are the only ones who can give Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn a run for their money with a friendship breakup storyline. The seeds are sowed at Fastlane, when Sasha interferes to keep Bayley as Champion.
There’s a truly compelling story they can work here, one of Bayley owing her title to Sasha, which means she owes her a title shot, at least according to Sasha. That’s already something, as Bayley doesn’t want to win that way, she doesn’t want to owe Sasha her victories. To take it a step further, don’t have Sasha get involved in the way she did last time, sneaking in when the ref wasn’t looking. This time, she comes out in gear, gets up on the top rope in full view of the referee and Bayley on the other side, and hits the double knees to Charlotte. Bayley is DQ’d, Charlotte wins the match, but Bayley walks out champion. When Bayley confronts her the next night on Raw, she calls Bayley ungrateful and twists her arm into putting her in the rematch at WrestleMania. Then the match becomes not just about winning, but also about being the one who beats Charlotte’s streak. Sasha did what she did so that it could be her who took Charlotte’s streak at WrestleMania, not out of love for Bayley. It’s the beginning of something great, but of course, Nia Jax will be shoehorned in whether it fits or not because that’s what WWE does these days. A fatal fourway at WrestleMania will set up long-term feuds between Sasha and Bayley (who should take it all the way to next year’s show), and Nia and Charlotte.
WIGGINS: Personally, I feel Sasha Banks’ intentions as a character at the moment are more or less innocent - she, of course, wants to be champion but doesn’t yet want to crush or manipulate Bayley to get there. But, Stephanie McMahon’s accusation that Sasha doesn’t think Bayley can win on her own does appear to ring true - Sasha appears to be looking out for Bayley because she knows the RAW Women’s Champion is vulnerable and naive, and it seems pretty clear that Sasha thinks she could beat her friend for the title at any given moment.
The breakup of these two and Sasha’s heel turn are coming, but I don’t think it’ll happen until WrestleMania at the latest. Expect Bayley to cost Sasha the win in the rumored Fatal Four-Way at Mania, causing Sasha to snap and lay into Bayley for being a bad friend and a nobody, not fit to have a friend like the Boss.
Nia Jax fits into this by inflicting more defeats onto both Sasha and Bayley leading into the event, and she has a very real chance of walking away with the belt at Mania. I’d currently place her as my second favorite in that projected match behind Charlotte, but it is a close call. Although her wrestling as arguably regressed since joining RAW, Jax will hold the brand’s Women’s Championship by SummerSlam at the latest, so now’s just a case of building her towards that mantle.
Guest: I have no idea what is happening with the Raw women’s division right now, and I don’t think WWE does either. They have three incredibly talented women and Nia Jax isn’t far behind. I’m expecting a fatal 4-way going into WrestleMania, which makes me really unsure about the results at Fastlane. Is Sasha loses twice to Nia then she has no place in the match and if Charlotte’s record is still in tact then losing in a fatal 4-way should technically keep it going and that’s a good story, but if Bayley beats it then that’s also interesting to see how Charlotte reacts and how Bayley takes her role at the top. I think they are getting by having a poor story because of the quality matches these women can put on and the WrestleMania match will be great regardless.
Having four women who can’t seem to work out who’s better than who is fun and the unpredictability of the matches between them is great, but I worry that when all of this blows over there is a huge void left where their only good women have already had too many matches between themselves that it’s not worth watching anymore.
Those are our thoughts on the issue, but where do you stand?
Let us know your answers to these questions in the comments below!